By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)

After Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle, director Matthew Vaughn decided to give his latest movie franchise a prequel, which tells the origins of this particular movie universe. I do not know what exactly Vaughn is drinking or consuming, but his ideas for the beginning story of his saga is an absolute mess and a simple case of bad ideas and poor taste. The King’s Man also lacks the same acerbically and subversively hilarious sense of humor that made his previous entries more entertaining and fun. In fact, this film has an odd feel of seriousness and gravity, despite its ridiculous ideas, that make this film out of place within the entire construct of the series.

During World War I, a phantom menace of a puppet master is pulling the strings behind what is essentially one of the major and catastrophic events of human history. A secret organization plots to control the politics that eventually lead to the world’s first major, global conflict, while British Lord Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) attempts to assist his government with all of his skills and resources. Oxford’s son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) also wants to do his part, but his over-protective father struggles to keep him as uninvolved as he possibly can. When he finally agrees to let Conrad participate in his high stakes work, Conrad must mature quickly and develop the skills this type of espionage work requires.

Written and directed by Vaughn, The King’s Man utilizes the history of World War I, along with other major events and people of our history in some really distasteful and bizarre ways. While the film does have a few (and very few at that) genuinely funny moments, and some rather exciting action sequences, the end result is a strange and ludicrous mess of bad, dull, and bewildering moments that left me mostly flat and uninspired. In addition, the movie’s secret puppet master becomes rather obvious and predictable if one is paying close enough attention.

While all of the cast emembers seem to give valiant efforts, despite the weaknesses of the writing, no one in particular definitely stands out. The performances are a mix of over-the-top stereotypes and straightly-played characters that all come across as an outlandish mix of tonally different realizations that reflect Vaughn’s lack of focus on the film’s overall tone of the movie.

Even if one is a fan of the first two films, I cannot, at all, recommend this strange and sloppily conceived and executed prequel. I honestly feel that The King’s Man does so little to properly develop a satisfying backstory for the saga. Not that I have a huge stake in this franchise, but I definitely believe that someone other than Matthew Vaughn could have come up with a more exciting and entertaining origin story for what should be a fun and wildly enjoyable film series.

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